Erinn Staley

Erinn Staley
estaley@wellesley.edu

(781) 283-3029
Religion
B.A., Rhodes College; M.Div., Yale Divinity School; M.A., M.Phil., Ph.D., Yale University



Erinn Staley
Visiting Lecturer in Religion

Interests include religion, gender, public health, and disability; teaches about religion and culture with attention to scholarly, popular, and new media writings.


My research concerns modern Christian thought, particularly questions of what it means to be human and how human identity and well-being are formed in communities. Research questions include how beliefs and practices are mutually constituted and whether reshaping religious rituals and performances might contribute to more ethical conduct outside of the explicitly ecclesial sphere. My current research responds to discrimination against intellectually disabled people in churches and in the history of Christian thought. Drawing on disability theories from the social sciences and humanities, it diagnoses one historical root for this problem of marginalization, namely that Christian theology's dominant ways of characterizing what it is to be human center on, or at a minimum presuppose, intellectual capacities, thus constructing intellectually disabled people as lesser or inhuman. Integrating insights from sensory culture studies and education theory, the project highlights communal practices that have the potential to foster inclusion of rather than discrimination against intellectually disabled people.

My primary objectives as a teacher are to foster critical thinking about how individuals and communities make meaning and to help students cultivate reading and communication skills so that they may translate their academic study of religion--or any subject--into language that is intelligible to others with whom they are in conversation. Religion provides both content for our inquiry and methods by which to examine the world--textual exegesis, ritual performance, and so on. Students can apply the critical thinking, reading, and writing skills they develop while studying religion to their other academic work and to their goals beyond the classroom. I encourage students to have an attitude of generosity toward beliefs, practices, and cultures beyond their own so that their critical reflection on religion is respectful, fair, and persuasive to others.

My other professional interests include service learning, interdisciplinary collaboration, and digital humanities, including how knowledge is constructed and shared in the academy and beyond.